Oklahoma attorney general seeks delay of three upcoming executions

The gurney in the execution chamber at the state penitentiary in McAlester, Okla.
The gurney in the execution chamber at the state penitentiary in McAlester, Okla.
(Associated Press)

Citing a lack of necessary drugs and the need for additional training of corrections employees after a botched execution in April, Oklahoma Atty. Gen. Scott Pruitt wants to delay three upcoming executions scheduled to take place by the end of the year.

In a filing with the state’s court of appeals, Pruitt calls for postponing the executions of Charles Warner, Richard Eugene Glossip and John Marion Grant until early next year. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is scheduled to execute Warner by lethal injection on Nov. 13, to be followed by the other two executions in subsequent weeks.

“The additional requested time for all three executions will allow the ODOC sufficient time in which to obtain the necessary drugs and medical personnel and to fully and thoroughly train each member of the new execution team,” writes Pruitt in the filing.

After the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, in which an Oklahoma inquiry found an intravenous line was not properly administered, the state faced widespread criticism and halted executions. Warner was scheduled to be put to death April 29, the same day as Lockett, but his execution was delayed after the problems arose and witnesses described Lockett as groaning in the 43 minutes it took for him to die.


Requests for comment from attorneys for Warner were not immediately returned Monday.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections used a sedative known as midazolam for the first time as part of the lethal cocktail used to execute Lockett. Critics have pointed to that drug as one of the causes of the botched execution, but Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson said in September that the deadly cocktail of midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride were successful.

Acquiring drugs such as phenobarbital, a once-common ingredient in lethal injection cocktails, has been difficult for many states as foreign pharmaceutical companies that often manufacture the drug have publicly denounced and sought to prevent its sale for use in executions.

In Pennsylvania, the American Civil Liberties Union and four newspapers last month asked a federal judge to unseal court records in an effort to pinpoint where that state purchases its execution drugs. A decision has not been announced by the court.

After Lockett’s execution the state ordered executions personnel to undergo revised training and protocols, which Pruitt says in the court filing needs more time to be implemented.

Based on the “totality of circumstances” -- a lack of necessary drugs and more training time -- Pruitt wants to delay the executions until January and February 2015.

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